|Tigers received explosives, aviation gasoline from India|
Although China’s Norinco had been the Tigers’ largest single supplier of arms, including all its artillery pieces and dedicated equipment such as four barrelled 14.5 mm anti-aircraft guns (ZPU 4), the group throughout Eelam war had maintained an Indian supply line which brought in a range of warlike items.
Supplies from India had been as important as heavy armaments from China in sustaining the LTTE fighting capacity. The LTTE depended heavily on the Indian supply line, particularly during the three-year-old eelam war IV spearheaded by the then army chief General Sarath Fonseka. LTTE operatives in charge of procuring critically needed items had facilitated the transfer of supplies across the Gulf of Mannar to LTTE bases along the north-western coastline located north of Mannar up to Pooneryn. The navy, though causing severe damage on LTTE units engaged in the operation had failed to completely cut off supplies, primarily because the enemy effectively exploited the cover of Tamil Nadu fishermen. Heavy presence of Indian fishermen had seriously hindered SLN operations and on one occasion the LTTE took advantage of their presence in Sri Lankan waters to direct a suicide attack at an Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) killing several navy men.
It was part of their strategy to discourage the navy from interfering with their operations.
It is no secret that the LTTE operated alongside the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet and in some instances used their vessels and also hired them. Once the navy captured an Indian fisherman after sinking a trawler carrying ammunition but a section of Indian officialdom played politics with the issue, thereby helping the LTTE to survive a little bit longer.
The army brought the Mannar-Pooneryn stretch under its control by last November causing the collapse of the sea supply route but by then the LTTE had smuggled in massive stocks of warlike items.
The navy caused considerable damage on the LTTE network by regularly intercepting trawlers bringing in supplies. The navy seized and destroyed altogether about a dozen trawlers between January 26, 2006 and February 16 2007 before going on to wipe out the LTTE merchant fleet on the high seas. The LTTE operatives based in Tamil Nadu had operated brazenly until the LTTE massacred a group of Indian fishermen off the Kanyakumari coast in early 2007. The Tamil Nadu government and a section of the Indian press had made abortive attempts to blame it (massacre) on a third party.
Despite stepping up of naval operations to curtail sea supply movements across the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary, the LTTE had brought in large quantities of warlike material of Indian origin. The LTTE also used to re-route armaments coming from its other suppliers through Indian waters and in support of this exercise it engaged a section of the Tamil Nadu fishing community. Had India acted swiftly and decisively, she could have destroyed the LTTE network and speeded up the Tigers’ collapse. The bottom line is that the LTTE wouldn’t have lasted even three years.
Explosives had been one of the main items obtained from Indian suppliers and a range of other items, including detonators needed to trigger explosives and steel balls also a key ingredient in claymore mines. Sri Lanka had recovered large quantities of explosives both before and after the collapse of the LTTE with the recent recovery of over 2,500 kilos of explosives buried east of A9 by intelligence services being the largest single detection in the entire eelam war. The police had earlier recovered about 3,900 kgs of explosives while the army and navy, too, made major recoveries.
Over two months after the collapse of the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Sri Lanka is in the process of recovering buried LTTE arms caches, mainly in areas east of the A9.
Now, that the LTTE had been crushed, it would be pertinent to conduct a cohesive study on the LTTE supply network. Although the international community regularly calls for strict controls on the transfer of arms, ammunition and other warlike equipment, the LTTE had been able to procure armaments in many parts of the world and transfer them across borders with impunity.
Air Tigers wouldn’t have able to launch a series of attacks, including double suicide strike last February thwarted by the SLAF had Sri Lanka stopped aviation gasoline stocks reaching the Vanni. The military establishment believed that the LTTE had procured its aviation gasoline supplies from India. The LTTE had access to influential persons in Tamil Nadu, who even accepted supplies from Norway and other developed countries on behalf of the LTTE and then transferred them across to Sri Lanka.
A chance detection of LTTE operatives with their Indian counter parts and the seizure of a large trawler carrying about 2000 kgs of high explosives by India at the early stages of eelam war IV revealed the existence of the Indian supply line. The Indian media, in an effort to destabilise Sri Lanka’s efforts to curb cross-border movements warned of what it called LTTE suicide packs operating in Sri Lankan waters. What it really wanted was to restrict Sri Lankan naval movements to facilitate supply runs to Sri Lanka.
A spate of recoveries made by Southern Indian States beginning January 2007 included large quantities detonators, steel balls, aluminium bars, diesel and gelatine sticks. The LTTE couldn’t have survived without maintaining their two primary supply routes. While the route which involved its merchant fleet had brought supplies to Chalai and Mullaitivu on the north-eastern coast the other moved across the Gulf of Mannar to Nachchikudah-Pooneryn stretch on the north-western coast.
The LTTE had also procured boats from Tamil Nadu fishermen and deployed them for smuggling operations at the risk of their lives. Although terrorists world over had engaged in smuggling, no group managed the way the LTTE did operating a fleet of merchant vessels and trawlers to keep the supplies moving in to northern Sri Lanka constantly.
The LTTE in a bid to accommodate large cargo aircraft carrying ammunition launched work on an airfield in the Mullaitivu district but never managed to bring in even one load before the army ran over their bases in the Vanni east theatre last May.
~ island.lk ~ by Shamindra Ferdinando